A Gen Z VC speaks up: Why Gen Z VCs are trash

In the eternal words of Kanye Omari West: “Scoop-diddy-whoop, Whoop-di-scoop-di-poop, Poop-di-scoopty.”

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s get to the meat. Objectively speaking, and much to my chagrin, I’m a Gen Z. Pew Research defines Gen Z as anyone born after 1996, and, being born in October of 1999 (the ’90s were the best three months of my life!), I certainly qualify as one.

Let’s define some additional characteristics: Generally speaking, Gen Z is digital-native, meme-informed and progressive.

In the last couple of years, a large group of “Gen Z VCs” have come to the forefront of what one might consider “hip” venture capital investing. Crypto, web3, NFTs and the creator economy are a small subset of investment sectors championed by this wave of investors. In turn, these have become the “hyped industries.” Web3 received $27 billion last year alone.

Gen Z VCs have raised funds, garnered social media followings and profited from the Gen Z mentality.

Gen Z, no matter how you slice it, are still a bunch of kids. Myself included.

Good for them. I don’t want to be any part of it. Further, I firmly believe this Gen Z VC movement is a thinly veiled excuse for clout chasing, manipulating and substituting personality for experience and hype for investment principles.

The evidence is simple: Gen Z isn’t a real investment trend. I don’t think anybody would disagree with me when I say that the line for Gen Z is a bit wavy and largely depends on where and under what circumstances one grew up in. Sure, most of us grew up in an age of technology, but we didn’t all grow up in an age of social media.

There’s a drastic difference in views and experiences between someone born in 1997 and someone born in 2012. I got my first cell phone (no keyboard or touchscreen) when I was 10 just so that I could get picked up safely from soccer practice. My first car was a 2000 Volvo S70 (manual transmission); I used a floppy disc in elementary school; and although I did grow up with a computer, I remember spending hours on Polar Bowler and Full Tilt! Pinball. Clippy was my constant companion in Microsoft Word.

Most importantly, though, I got my first social media account on the day I turned 13.

That’s a far cry from the second half of this generation. See, the average age of a “Gen Z” right now is about 17.5. Most modern neuroscience indicates that the brain stops developing at the age of 25. Gen Z, no matter how you slice it, are still a bunch of kids. Myself included.

So why are people a year or two older than I am using this Gen Z mentality to capitalize off a false investment trend? Simple: Because they can.

LPs love a differentiated product offering. VCs love new ideas and hype waves. Or more generally, everyone loves a good story.

The problem with that is, when push comes to shove, the “Gen Z VCs” are the last people anyone should be trusting to manage investment dollars.

Just look at the Gen Z VCs summit survey. The top investment trend is “Fintech.” Their favorite company is Apple. Their top role models include Elon Musk, AOC and Megan Loyst (the latter, in an affront to polling error and situational irony, being the person who published the survey).

Is this creativity, originality and the next wave of forward-thinking investors? Or is it a bunch of kids who regurgitate trends on the internet in hopes of breaking down the door to entering the most esoteric and lucrative industry in capitalist America?

There aren’t true “thought leaders” in the space either. Everyone’s top aspirational VCs don’t have insightful takes or meaningful Twitter posts — just retweets, shameless self-promotion and the occasional ask for food recommendations in whichever city they’re visiting.

I’m in the Gen Z VCs Slack group, and it’s the epitome of this transactional immaturity. Every post is so fake that you could see it in Fyre Fest marketing materials, and each and every one has the goal of advancing the poster, their product or their company. Nothing about the world or ecosystem as a whole.

I’ll be honest. At this point, I’m so sick of emojis that if a lightbulb-rocket-emoji-filled load of BS makes it in my Twitter feed, I’m going to do the ice bucket challenge in our office and finish it off with the dance to WAP.

The “Gen Z VCs” movement represents the majority of what I hate about working in venture capital. I don’t want deal swapping, fake words of encouragement or implied reciprocation. I want to form authentic relationships based on trust, mutual respect and intelligent conversations about how we can move the world forward.

But that’s not your typical “Gen Z VC.” As a majority, the community and the people who leverage it comprise individuals trying (and often succeeding) at using youth, group-think identification and confidence as a substitute for hard work and experience.

Just because you have a Slack group of 17,000 entrepreneurs and wannabe VCs doesn’t mean you’ll know how to negotiate the anti-dilution protections on a down round. Just because you can write a children’s book on venture capital doesn’t mean you’ll know how to tell an entrepreneur that they’re going to have to wind up operations at their startup.

It might work for now, but if that’s success for my generation of venture capitalists, then I would have rather stayed in my happy little bubble writing geochemistry code at NASA JPL.

As an industry, venture capital certainly suffers from nepotism as well as gender and racial biases, but I like to believe that at its best, VC is the greatest meritocracy in the United States. Too often, I’ve seen Gen Z VCs use this persona to advance their career in a way that doesn’t translate to authentic value or experience as an investor.

You can understand one consumer sector and speak to them better than anyone, but you’re still missing coverage on the other 80.65% of the U.S. (not including, of course, the half of Gen Z that doesn’t have their own money to invest yet). I’ve sat in on enough board meetings now to know that it would be near impossible for most of us to provide real value at a late-stage company, unless their new approach to customer acquisition is creating an NFT project.

That’s not to say that there aren’t great Gen Z VCs out there. They exist, and I am lucky to count many of them as close friends. I refuse to call myself a “Gen Z VC” because I refuse to use youth and trendiness to substitute experience, principles-driven investing, hard work, and at the end of the day, merit. Anyone who does otherwise embodies the concept of “trash.”

I’d rather be defined by my investment track record than by my TikTok following, NFT collection or my love of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. And I never want to have my career success, my fundraising or my reputation based on a false narrative of youth that makes me seem “newer” or “more contrarian” than the older guard of investors. Who cares if you’re contrarian if you’re just plain wrong, too?

That’s the tea.